A team of Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) researchers believe they've found the secret to better phone cameras: teeny, tiny nano-earthquakes. To be exact, they've discovered that controlled sound waves can send ripples across 2D materials (flat surfaces that are a few atomic layers thick such as graphene), similar to ripples on the surface of water. These ripples can apparently change the electronic properties of a substance by carrying electrons across it. For their experiment, the team tested the technique on a photoluminescent 2D material, which emitted more and more light as the nano-earthquake intensified.
In cameras, the technique can increase the sensitivity of sensors, enabling them to perform better under low-light conditions. But besides cameras that can take great selfies even in the dark, the technology could also lead to more efficient solar cells and smart windows. The researchers believe it has a ton of other potential applications, as well, as it doesn't permanently alter materials: they go back to their original state as soon as the sound waves stop.